‘Pause & Pray’ in Nicolson Square Gardens, Edinburgh
Forth Valley Circuit
Some months ago, during my daily devotions, I experienced what I’ll call a ‘God nudge’ to actively encourage prayer, both inside and outside of church life. Specifically, the call was to take prayer outside of church buildings and on to the streets! As simple as that!
I had previously organised a small ‘prayer station’ in a town centre in the North West of England but wasn’t at all sure about doing something similar in the middle of Edinburgh. That seemed to be a very different proposition. However, the idea was well-received from across the Forth Valley Circuit and people gave generously of their time, help and resources, especially on the day itself.
Located in Nicolson Square Gardens, close to City of Edinburgh Methodist Church, ‘Pause & Pray’ took place on Saturday 30 September and equipped with a (fairly) weather resistant gazebo, a specially-made banner, a prayer tree, a variety of Christian resources and an art activity at the ready – we were good to go!
This was certainly a step of faith as none of us knew quite what to expect. We had prayed for the conversations which would take place and especially that God would go ahead of us. Just how much God was already at work in the hearts and lives of the people we met would become apparent. We had no agenda other than to be a Christian presence in the centre of Edinburgh, representing the Methodist Church in Scotland and being willing to engage with people and enable prayer to be offered. In the process, our own faith was both challenged and strengthened.
Nicolson Square Gardens is often frequented by people who are homeless or in difficulty of one kind or another, and who may also be dependent on drugs or alcohol. Whilst other members of the public who were walking through Nicolson Square Gardens did stop by, it was the group of men and women who often make the Gardens their base for the day, who offered the most engagement and made me very glad that ‘Pause & Pray’ had become a reality.
There were some memorable encounters. One man kept reminding us that he was praying it wouldn’t rain! We did get the odd shower but not the downpours we could have had. We met a woman who was unable to take away any resources because her pockets were full of holes and there was evident hunger amongst those who eagerly took handfuls of sweets that were on offer.
For some, the opportunity to pray also became a focus for remembrance. The majority of people we spoke to had suffered bereavement or loss of some kind and perhaps up until now, had not had the means to express or mark these losses in any way. Names were lovingly painted on stones or written on cards and hung on the Prayer Tree.
It’s difficult to quantify ‘success’ with this kind of event and perhaps that should not be the aim of a prayer-based outreach event. What really matters is that people were listened to by those who had time to do so; prayer and care was enabled, finding practical expression in the ‘Blessing Stones’ art activity and in written prayers for the Prayer Tree. The prayers from both these activities were subsequently included in the Prayers of Intercession at City of Edinburgh Methodist Church.
What next? We pray that the Spirit of God will continue to move in the lives of those we met even only briefly. And in considering how we might follow up on the ‘Pause & Pray’ event, we also pray that we might remain open to prayerful, practical and meaningful ways of sharing God’s blessing with others. Further creative prayer ideas from across the Connexion would be warmly welcomed. Thank you!
Deacon Elizabeth Harfleet